https://digitalpeople.blog.gov.uk/2015/02/23/turning-vacancies-into-opportunities-2/

Turning vacancies into opportunities

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 15.52.06

I have previously blogged about the basic elements of a successful recruitment strategy. This post details the planning and preparation stage in a bit more depth, and why using the dusty old job description sat in the drawer may not be the best solution.

Reviewing your requirements

Often hiring managers think the easiest solution is to use the job description that helped recruit the leaver in the first place. There is a possibility that the existing job description is out of date.

This is a great time to review the actual requirements of the position again. You might think you don’t have time but, as with most planning, if done properly it will save you considerable time and effort further down the line.

It is a worthwhile exercise to do alongside the leaver, your team, your HR Business Partner and, should you have one, a specialist internal recruiter, to utilise all their insights.

Establish what the employee is currently doing

You may already have an exit interview planned with your leaver. If not, you should definitely do so. Find out why they’re leaving and whether you can make changes to minimise others leaving for the same reason. Employees are often most candid in exit interviews so use this to your advantage.

Use this time to also discuss what activities demand most of their time and how they evolved the role. Use previous performance appraisals to help with this.

Consider whether this is how you feel their successor should be focusing their efforts. Are there likely to be any changes in the future that will require different or additional skills?

Think about existing team members’ needs

This is an ideal opportunity to reconsider who is doing what in the team and who is best suited to undertake various roles across the wider team. Have other team members expressed a desire to become involved in some of the duties undertaken by the role? Perhaps they are looking for a development opportunity?

This could be a great chance to enthuse other team members.

Discuss this with your HR Business Partner and recruiter for advice and support on how best to shape this new opportunity and what your sourcing approach should be e.g. do you offer it first to internal employees before approaching the external market etc.

Designing the job description

Once you’re clear about what the new opportunity is you need to concisely and eloquently capture it in a job description that will give others an understanding of it too.

The job description should cover the following areas:

Job title - keep it simple, recognisable and accurate

Context - brief information about why the job exists in the organisation and the context in which the work is carried out. Outlining some of the unique selling points of the role

Job scope - you might want to include some information here about the types of decision making required in the role, the level of autonomy they’ll have and what types of interaction will be needed with other internal teams and departments as well as external organisations.

Principal accountabilities/key tasks - quite simply these are, in the main, what you are hiring this person to achieve.

You could take each of these and link to a corresponding objective for future performance appraisals. I’ve often tried to use the format of ‘what is done … to what … with what outcome’ to help guide my thinking when doing this.

Person specification - What the candidate needs to have in order to perform effectively in the role. This could include a combination of the following:

  • skills / experience / knowledge
  • education, qualifications and training
  • work-based competencies (i.e. what does the job-holder need to be able to do?)
  • behavioural competencies (e.g. ability to influence people, identify problems and work together with a team to find solutions, demonstrate personal drive, ability to work alone etc.). You may have a list of standard organisational competencies to reference here.
  • Include any other necessary information on the special demands of the job, such as security clearance required, physical conditions, unusual hours, amount of travel required, etc.

An accurate person specification can help the selection process

The person specification will be the standard by which applicants are short-listed after sifting. The more precise the criteria, the more straightforward the sifting. It will also help potential applicants to judge if they are suitable for the role against the basis of essential criteria.

Be mindful that the more essential criteria you have, narrows the amount of potential candidates you could consider. If you include fewer essential criteria for each part of the person specification, and slightly more to the desirable, than you can have a degree of flexibility.

The information contained within the job description and the person specification is used to prepare the job advertisement. But be mindful that the advert and the JD are different. The aim of the advert is to capture attention of potential suitable candidates and to encourage them to apply whilst discouraging the unsuitable. A good advert is an attractive summary of a job description.

An accurate person specification also provides a key aid with which to interview against. Questions should be carefully designed to obtain information to enable an objective assessment of the candidate.

If the specification is designed carefully and applied to the advertising, sift/shortlisting and interview stages, it should result in the recruitment of the most appropriate candidate for the job.

And finally…

Try to keep it clear, informative and concise. Avoid using jargon (realistically you’re not recruiting for ninjas, rockstars, gurus, unicorns etc.- sorry just a pet hate of mine!) and use plain English.


ZeShaan Shamsi is the Head of GDS Recruitment. Follow him on twitter.